As the clock continue to tick forward in these unprecedented times towards the start of the 2020-2021 Eagle’s Men’s basketball campaign, one thing that is certain is that the Eagles will be returning a Senior class with three years of ACC experience under their belt and ready to end their collegiate careers by making a statement in the ACC. Let’s take a look at the Eagles who will be the lead veterans on the team and looking to capitalize in their “Last Dance” in the Maroon and Gold.
This is going to be a hard player to say good-bye to come season end for sure. Ever since his Freshman campaign, Mitchell has proven himself to be the focal point on this team on both sides of the ball. While scoring and hitting a mid-range jumper were Mitchell’s fortes, Steffon provided the Eagles with intensity on defense and the ability to squeeze his way into the low block to grab any loose boards. By his senior year, the ACC has taken note of Mitchell’s Denis Rodman like toolset earning him spots on the All-ACC and ACC All-Defensive Team his junior year. He also ranked fourth in the ACC in rebounding and posted seven double-doubles in points and rebounds his third year. Not to mention, he secured 10 or more rebounds in 13 games in his previous season.
It is evident that Mitchell is going to be the heart and soul of this team this year. Since coming to the heights, Steffon has been out to prove people wrong being labeled a two-star recruit out of high school and playing with a chip on his shoulder since day one. I expect a big year for the Senior out trying to get some eyes from NBA prospects and striving to bring some hardware back to the heights in his last season. However, in order for him to achieve a potential bid in the big leagues, everyone is going to want to see Mitchell’s success in the off-season in his mid-range game and at the charity stripe.
Throughout his three years on the heights, Kraljevic always appeared to be an Eagle in the shadows. In his time at BC, Luka averaged 7.4 MPG and only was placed in the starting line-up three times in his collegiate career. Most of that was in part for the consistent holes that coach Christian was trying to fill down low with players with simply more talent. That primarily player was Nic Popovic who was the go-to guy and a very efficient player for the Eagles down low. Kraljevic lived in Pop’s shadow and was really only pointed to when Nic needed to catch a breath.
This year, I expect to see a little bit more of Kraljevic on the floor with Pop’s departure from the Heights. He is one of the only position players listed on the depth chart as a center aside from Freshman Justin Vander Baan and transfer James Karnik. Nonetheless, Luka’s playing time is still contingent on the competition at other forward position players like Kamari Williams and CJ Felder who showed some strong upside in their Freshman year. So, will Luka outshine the underclassman and earn himself a starting spot, or will he continue to be on the bench and in the shadow’s of some talented underclassman? Only time, and Jim Christian, will tell…
A highly touted transfer to the Eagles in the off-season, I expect Kranik to fit in well in the starting rotation with the Eagles. Coming from the Patriot League, Kranik was a starter for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks since his Freshman year and clearly a lynchpin in Lehigh’s offense. In analyzing his highlight reel, Kranik is clearly going to be a strong substitute for Nic Popovic for his one season at the Heights. He has a fantastic ability to make his way to the low-block, post-up strong, and use his excellent footwork to float the ball over his defenders and into the cup. Not to mention, he has a big frame at 6-9 230 which led to his success in the Patriot League. In his career at Lehigh, Kranik he shot 54.3% from the field, and average 6.6 REBs and 9.5 PPG.
The question that remains is that will his success transfer well into a more competitive conference like the ACC? Additionally, Kranik was hampered with an ankle injury forcing him to miss 10 games in the previous season. Will that injury still linger into the 20-21 season or has this offseason allowed him to get back to full form and show out in the Maroon and Gold? Either way, I anticipate Kranik being plugged into this offense from day one and getting a decent bit of run at the 5 position since the Eagles are already thin at that position.
Sam Holtze, Will Jackowitz (The Walk-Ons)
For these two guys, it is their last runs as the deep bench go-tos and the “garbage time” heroes for the Eagles. I don’t expect seeing these guys get anymore time than they did in their entire collegiate career other than during the potential blow-out against a low-tier opponent.
Nonetheless, as an Eagle’s fan, I loved watching these guys on the bench. They may not have added much from a basketball perspective, but they were certainly the serum that injected some life and confidence in their team’s performance from the sidelines for three years. Their energy is contagious and sometimes the best remedy in generating a scoring surge against top-level ACC competition. So while they may not show up much on the stat sheet, their continued levels of encouragement of their team’s success will not go unseen.